We are living in financial technology times that are like no other. It’s exciting, suspenseful and, at times, stressful. How do we keep up with what’s next? We have to ask ourselves: Is it compliant? Is this something we really need — if so, why? It’s head-spinning stuff that makes our lives anything but dull.
As most of us may remember, financial services were pretty mundane back in the day. It was something we had to do — writing checks, making deposits to savings, paying off loans, transferring between accounts, and opening CDs. But today there are so many headline-grabbing stories of payments technology advancements, biometrics security solutions, and mobile everything, which all directly impact our industry.
It wasn’t until I saw the logo of $73 billion Navy Federal Credit Union, Vienna, Va., logo onscreen behind Apple CEO Tim Cook when he announced the first few financial institutions that would be using Apple Pay that the “cool factor” really kicked in for me. I got started in the financial services industry just as Internet home banking was on the proverbial launch pad. But that seemed more like science fiction at the time — with a ton of questions: What, I’m going to manage my money on a website? Are you sure that’s gonna fly?” The Navy FCU logo onstage at Apple’s event, however, was so legit, so cool.
I just went to the pet store to buy some dog food for our two furry family members and there on the payment terminal was “Apple Pay Accepted Here” message. So I used my Apple Pay-enabled credit union card via my iPhone to make the purchase. That’s cool — the fact that my credit union (San Diego County Credit Union shout out!) offers Apple Pay makes me love it that much more.
I’m sure there are many other industry milestones that have similar meaning to you at whatever stage of your career you were/are at. But the point is, can you remember any time in history where financial services has been so mainstream, so popular, so interesting, because of all the major players involved and their mind-blowing innovations? And to have your credit union affiliated with those organizations enhances its attractiveness in a big way. That’s good for marketing — and eventually business (as long as it all works well.)
So what’s your credit union’s cool factor worth? Probably more than you think. Everybody smiles when they see something cool — whether it’s a movie, song, sports, and, yes, even technology.
So, subtly, when you implement a new mobile service, a new biometrics security measure, or even a teller-free branch loaded with iPad kiosks, aren’t you instilling a cool factor — along with the efficient new services? The answer is a resounding yes. And your members, most likely, are going to love it because it’s cool to use. And, even better, they’re going to talk about it.
Tell me, Navy FCU members, that you weren’t over the moon when you saw your credit union’s logo at that Apple event as one of the first FIs to implement Apple Pay? The whole credit union industry was buzzing. Tell me, First Tech Credit Union members, that you aren’t stoked to use MasterCard’s “Selfie Pay.” Tell me, Mountain America Credit Union members, that you aren’t amazed to use its EyeVerify biometrics account opening app that essentially requires you to blink your eyes to gain access to your account.
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Good grief, I was so excited when my San Diego-based credit union (which has $7 billion in assets) implemented remote deposit capture a few moons ago and I used it for the first time. I couldn’t wait to tell every living soul about it. “That’s so cool,” was what I heard from just about everybody — while probably piquing their interest in a credit union for the first time.
One of credit unions’ biggest concerns today is staying relevant. Trying new things like proven biometrics, convenient mobile payments, voice-command banking (Amazon Echo or Apple’s Siri), integrated finance within the growing area of “Internet of Things,” and much more, all greatly enhances that relevancy. There’s an old marketing strategy of smaller, lesser-known companies associating themselves with larger, high-profile companies that propel them to a higher level. This association results in more credibility, increases leadership position, and, yes, enhances their cool factor.
I’m not saying to do these things just because they are cool. Do these things because they work and future members (hello, again, millennials) will need them. So skate to where the puck is going to be (thank you, Mr. Gretzky). This affiliation enhances the visibility of your credit union exponentially being “aligned” with such high profile and, hopefully, reputable names as Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Samsung.
Let’s jump off the technology hoverboard for second and think about another good thing your credit union can do to enhance its cool factor: giving. Philanthropy, as we all know, rocks. And probably most, if not all, of you do this, anyway. But you can never rest on your laurels when it comes to giving back. Doing so is cool and enhances your credit union’s value in your members’ eyes. And chances are these efforts pass on to consumers to consider you as their new primary financial institution.
To sum it up, a cool factor definitely matters to be relevant. As superficial as it sounds, it’s true. But you have to back it up. You have to work to get there. You can have the cool technology, but make sure it works well and your members really need it. Ask your “why” here, and make your move. Also do the cool things that matter to your community; the message that sends about your values will resonate throughout your membership.
Work hard to do what’s best for your credit union, your members, and your community — and your cool factor will thrive. What’s that worth?
Mike Lawson, principal and founder of the PR/marketing firm DML Communications and the online CUbroadcast show, has two decades of journalism, public relations and marketing experience. His unique and robust knowledge allows him to meet the varied needs of editors, end-users and clients. Lawson's expertise enables him to enhance his clients' market exposure through media relations, social media tools, advertising efforts, target marketing strategies and more. He also speaks on PR, marketing and media issues to audiences nationwide.